Miami Dolphins

John Denney helped shape the future of the NFL Tuesday night. Here’s how.

John Denney says DeMaurice Smith’s experience makes him the right man to stay on as NFLPA executive director.
John Denney says DeMaurice Smith’s experience makes him the right man to stay on as NFLPA executive director. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

More than a dozen current and former NFL players unamimously decided late Tuesday to keep DeMaurice Smith as the executive director of the NFL Players Association.

Dolphins long snapper John Denney was one of the select few — and he explained to the Miami Herald Thursday why he ultimately decided Smith deserves another term.

“‘De’ did a self review of his past, mixed with his experience,” Denney said. “He was here with us through the last lockout, so I think that experience is also key going forward. He's familiar with who he's working with, so he's going to be that much further along in the learning curve.”

While attorney Cyrus Mehri had hoped to unseat Smith in a general election, it never got to that point. The unamimous vote on the 14-man selection committee was all Smith needed to earn another term.

Smith was the union’s negotiator in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was only ratified after a player lockout. Smith won concessions from the league on reductions in and physicality of practice, but critics believe he was rolled on a number of issues, including player discipline. Roger Goodell has almost unfettered authority to discipline players, and in the years since, Smith has since claimed Goodell has misused those powers.

That concerns players. So does the issue of player safety, particularly with grim new details about the effect football has on the brain emerging seemingly every day.

Still, the No. 1 complaint that Denney — the Dolphins’ union rep who was picked for the committee because of his longevity — hears from his teammates is they’re not getting enough money. More specifically, they’re not getting enough guaranteed money. Unlike basketball and baseball, a contract isn’t really a contract in the NFL without explicit guarantees.

And any other concern pales in comparison.

“You can't have it all, so what's at the top of the list?” Denney said. “It really does boil down to money. It does affect some guys, but it's a very few amount of guys. The union has to make decisions for all of the current players. You've got 1,500, 1,600 players. How many of those players are dealing with off the field issues? You're going to tell these 1,600 players, ‘Are you willing to give us this money so eight or nine players a year won't have to deal with the things they're dealing with? You still want to go to bat for your guys, but you've got to make decisions on what's best for the group.”

The CBA expires in 2021, and insiders believe that another work stoppage is more likely than not to happen.

“It's always a possibility,” Denney said of another lockout. “It's hard to say what's going to happen. It all depends on both parties and what the give and take is, and what the agreement is.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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